Scientists produce device using bacteria to mine in space: Space mining could shortly become a reality as scientists revealed a device, that uses bacteria to separate metals and minerals from rocks on Mars & the Moon.
This was developed during a 10 year study by scientists at the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh. The mining device, which is the size of a matchbox, called a biomining reactor, uses 3 microorganisms.
The researchers discovered during tests performed by astronauts on the International Space Station that the technology may work in all gravity environments and could source metals and minerals such as iron & magnesium, which are important for survival in space.
The team’s discoveries say bacteria could improve the removal of rare earth elements from basalt in lunar & Martian landscapes by up to about 400%.
Rare earth elements are vastly used in high technology industries which include mobile phones, computers & magnets. Basalt is a rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava which is rich in magnesium and iron.
The research suggest these forms of microorganisms are currently in use on Earth to extract valuable elements from rocks, such as copper & gold.
Professor Charles Cockell from the School of Physics and Astronomy explains: “Our experiments lend support to the scientific and technical feasibility of biologically enhanced elemental mining across the Solar System.
“While it is not economically viable to mine these elements in space and bring them to Earth, space biomining could potentially support a self-sustaining human presence in space.”
The operation accepted funding from the UK Space Agency & the European Space Agency.
Scientists produce device using bacteria to mine in space